After a long lapse, two female athletes are providing the local athletic enthusiast with something to look to every time they compete against each other.
A rivalry that has commenced in the women’s 800m event between Nimali Liyanarachi and Gayanthika Abeyratne has benefited the national cause as they have both managed to renew the past national record twice in the past few months and are showing signs of bettering it further in the upcoming competitions, given the proper support.
Last year at the National Sports Festival Nimali Liyanarachi broke the then 24 year old national record in the women’s 800m by Dhammika Menike of 02:03.85secs, which was the timing achieved at the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992. Nimali, though on a grass track, ran an impressive time of 02:03.5secs to claim the national record while she was given a run for her money by Gayanthika Abeyrathne who came in second with a time of 02:03.7secs, ahead of the previous record as well.
24 year old Sri Lanka record shattered by Nimali while Ishara betters his Pole vault national record
Two more Sri Lanka records were established on the second day of the 42nd National Sports..
Ugly scenes unfolded after the event with veteran athletes Susanthika Jayasinghe and Menike herself coming out in the media claiming that the national record cannot be awarded to Nimali as the event was held on a grass track with hand held timing. The Athletics Association of Sri Lanka came to Nimali’s rescue silencing the critics as it was within the technical specifications laid out by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF)
Despite the shortage of a proper track to train on, the Nimali – Gayanthika rivalry has injected new life to the women’s 800m event in the country as Gayanthika managed to avenge her defeat to Nimali at the Senior National trials that was conducted at the Diyagama Mahinda Rajapakse stadium, the only functional synthetic track in the county, though its condition is appalling and dangerous for the contestants. Gayanthika clocked a time of 2:02.55secs to claim the national record while Nimali was fractions behind with a time of 2:02.58secs. Both athletes bettered the previous record established in Jaffna but this time on a barely functional synthetic track and with electronic timing – putting all the critics that refused to accept the previous record to shame.
The duo took their rivalry to the three legged Asian Athletic Grand prix and claimed a total of 04 medals through the three legs. In the first leg Gayanthika won Bronze while in the second leg it was Nimali who won the Bronze medal. The final leg of the grand prix held in Taipei yielded the best result for the Lankan duo as Gayanthika Abeyrathne managed to win Gold getting the better of India’s Tintu Luka who holds the Indian record of 1:59.17 in the women’s 800m and also represented India in the at the Rio Summer Olympics while Nimali Liyanarachi secured the her second bronze of the Grand Prix.
Competition has been a main obstacle for Sri Lankan athletes to better their performances and has resulted in the top athletes having to battle themselves to better their performances. High jumper Manjula Kumara and Pole vaulting star Ishara Sandaruwan are left to take their final jumps long after the rest of the competitors have completed as their base heights are yet to be achieved by the rest. It’s a blessing that we have two competitors in the same event able to supply each other with stiff competition regularly and it’s even more exciting that they are both capable of bettering the current National record.
Here’s hoping that the Nimali – Gayanthika rivalry will supply us with more reasons to celebrate in the international arena while pleading the responsible authorities to provide this shining duo with as many opportunities as possible to improve their performances so they may bring international glory to our motherland.